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I've been provided credit monitoring and identity theft protection services from the company CSID. Their CyberAgent internet surveillance tool claims to "monitor thousands of websites and millions of data points and alerts you if your personal information is found being bought or sold online. We will alert you if we find that your monitored information is compromised." By default it monitors the email address and social security number used to sign-up for the service, but one can also add bank accounts, credit/debit cards, email addresses, phone numbers, medical IDs, driver's licenses, and passports. Are there any benefits in monitoring this additional personal information? Even if such information was found being sold online, what could one really do about it?

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The answer here boils down to a matter of trust, the question being: Do you trust your data being held by CSID?

According to CSID's Privacy Policy, they do not share your information with third parties for marketing purposes. However, there is a strong caveat in the policy:

In addition, in the event of a merger, acquisition, or any form of sale of some or all of our assets to a third party, we may also disclose your personal information to the third parties concerned or their professional advisors. In the event of such a transaction, the personal information held by CSID will be among the assets transferred to the buyer.

This means that should the company be acquired or sold, the buyer would now have possession of the data and could theoretically then do with it what they please, which might not be to your liking.

Also, at some point, they could update the privacy policy to say they could use the data for marketing or other purposes. In this case, they would supply you an update and information to opt-out, but if you do nothing then your data could be used for whatever the change allows.

Generally, if the privacy policy allows and the data ends up being "sold online" etc, there is not much recourse one has.

You are also taking the risk that if CSID is compromised through a hack or leak, your information can be disseminated as a result.

However, CSID is a company focused on security/privacy and it is clearly in their best interest to implement strong security protections for your data. If you believe CSID is more secure and thus less likely to be hacked than other places, and this reduces your overall exposure as a result; that could be a reason to use them.

Of course, the more information you give CSID the more robust their monitoring can become. If they are constantly checking your e-mail for signs of phishing or for order receipts that are anomalous, this can increase your security. If they constantly check bank accounts for signs of strange transactions, this again can increase security. However, the more data they have access to; the more you are exposed if something happens to them.

Personally, I don't use credit monitoring services as I believe their price does not justify the benefits of the service; and I am reluctant to give a full-access pass to my personal data to any entity. However, if I had been the victim of identity theft, or my information disclosed in a known leak; I might see further benefit to the service.

It's up to you to determine whether or not the benefits of such monitoring and reduced exposure to identity theft as a result outweighs the exposure of handing all your data to this monitoring entity.

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Instead of providing all of this personal information to a credit monitoring service who will then (supposedly) monitor for suspicious activity associated with your ID, you may want to simply freeze your credit report. With your credit report frozen, it becomes inaccessible to banks or lenders. If an identity thief were to try to take out a loan or open a credit card or line of credit using your name and ID, the bank or lender would not be able to pull your credit report, and would therefore be unlikely to issue the loan or line of credit to the thief.

Freezing your credit report is easy to do. For more info on freezing your credit report from the FTC web site: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0497-credit-freeze-faqs

Links to pages at the web sites of the three major credit bureaus for freezing your credit report: http://www.experian.com/consumer/security_freeze.html

http://www.transunion.com/securityfreeze

http://www.equifax.com/help/credit-freeze/en_cp

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